WRT crew sew up GT ti­tle amid penal­ties

Autosport (UK) - - WORLD OF SPORT RACE CENTRE - STEPHEN BRUNSDON

There were no fewer than 17 math­e­mat­i­cal con­tenders for the GT World Chal­lenge Europe Sprint Cup ti­tle head­ing into the Barcelona sea­son fi­nale last week­end. But it was quickly whit­tled down to four re­al­is­tic pro­tag­o­nists, and then to just two over the course of three in­trigu­ing one-hour races.

Team WRT Audi’s Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts would be crowned the even­tual champions, and their mix of re­lief and ex­ul­ta­tion at the end of the third and fi­nal af­fair was clear. It had been a long, hard slog and not with­out con­tro­versy.

For some time, it looked like Haupt Rac­ing’s Mercedes duo of Maro En­gel and Luca Stolz were go­ing to avenge their nar­row 2019 ti­tle loss be­fore the out­siders, Emil Frey Rac­ing’s Lam­borgh­ini charg­ers Al­bert Costa and Gi­a­como Al­toe, thrust them­selves into the mix. But both crews fell out of the hunt, re­ceiv­ing a 35s penalty for the same pit­stop in­fringe­ment in race two.

Costa and Al­toe were un­doubt­edly the form driv­ers through­out the week­end un­til that point, hav­ing se­cured two pole po­si­tions and two on-the-road race wins. Us­ing the su­pe­rior straight­line speed of the Hu­ra­can GT3 Evo, Costa steered his way to vic­tory in Satur­day’s damp open­ing race, al­though only af­ter be­ing waved through by the sis­ter car shared by Ri­cardo Feller and Mikael Gre­nier in the clos­ing stages. Costa was in­cred­i­bly lucky his team-mate fol­lowed him over the line, af­ter a bear­ing failed ex­it­ing the fi­nal cor­ner. The vic­tory mar­gin stood at just 0.1s.

There were no scares in race two, on track at least, for Costa and Al­toe who cruised to a 7s win from the im­pres­sive At­tempto Rac­ing Audi R8 of Fred Vervisch and Nick Scholl. The race-win­ning Lambo and the En­gel/stolz Merc were then deemed to have in­cor­rectly po­si­tioned the HANS de­vices un­der­neath the seat­belts dur­ing the driver changes. Vervisch and Scholl in­her­ited the win and the penalty meant Costa/al­toe and En­gel/stolz – who had closed to within just 2.5 points of the lead – were out of it.

Stay­ing out of trou­ble was the WRT crew of Vanthoor and Weerts. The Bel­gian pair­ing, pro­moted to sec­ond place in race two af­ter fin­ish­ing be­hind En­gel and Stolz in the open­ing race, now found them­selves with an 8.5-point lead over AKKA ASP’S Timur Bo­guslavskiy head­ing into the fi­nal race. The task seemed to be straight­for­ward, but the pre­vi­ous two en­coun­ters were proof enough that any­thing could hap­pen.

Vanthoor and Weerts did ev­ery­thing they needed to, and in fin­ish­ing sec­ond to the su­perb Bo­guslavskiy and team-mate Raf­faele Mar­ciello, they de­liv­ered the first Sprint Cup driv­ers’ ti­tle for Audi since

2017. For 19-year-old Weerts, son of

WRT co-owner Yves Weerts, it was the cul­mi­na­tion of a topsy-turvy week­end in which the Audi was not the fastest car.

Weerts and Vanthoor guided Audi to first Sprint driv­ers’ crown since 2017

HANS pit­stop gaff ru­ined Costa/al­toe’s ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions

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